Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Grail Fiction: The Quest for the Holy Kludge

Webster's dictionary defines "portage" as follows:

por·tage verb \ˈpȯr-tij, pȯr-ˈtäzh\ : to carry an object in a smug fashion while riding a bicycle : to carry a bicycle in a smug fashion [I portage my children to Montessori school in a bakfiets.]

And when it comes to portaging, nobody portages like Portlanders, as we saw from yesterday's prehensile posterior shot:

Further to that post, a number of erudite readers were not only able to confirm that the cargo was a paperback book, but they were also able to identify the title and author of the befouled tome:

I was not familiar with this book, having received a paltry and culturally insensitive public education which focussed mostly on the so-called "literary canon," but I did look it up on a popular user-edited online encyclopedia and I learned that you can call it a "Grail fiction," but only if you're politically incorrect:

Ceremony has been called a Grail fiction, in that the hero overcomes a series of challenges to reach a specified goal, but this point of view has been criticized as Eurocentric.

I wonder if it's also "Eurocentric" to stick it down your pants. In any case, I was glad to learn this, for should I ever find myself in Portland again and encounter a paperback portager I would hate to inadvertently put my Sidi in my mouth while trying to be friendly:

"Hey, I see you've got a copy of 'Ceremony' in your ass--I love Grail fiction!"

This would surely result in some serious eye-rolling, if not actual arrest by Portland's famous Smugness Patrol. The Smugness Patrol are sort of like the Hell's Angels, only they're considerably more wan, and they won't hesitate to bind your hands with sustainable jute twine, throw you in a bakfiets, and "portage" you to one of their solar-powered safe houses for a little "reeducation." In fact, the only literary crime in Portland worse than calling "Ceremony" a work of Grail fiction is riding an Ikea bike while portaging a Tom Clancy novel in your crack. I wonder if we'll soon start seeing literary theme rides in Portland--I'm imagining hundreds of people riding artisanal porteur bikes, their pants brimming with post-modern criticism and landmark works of the Harlem Renaissance.

Meanwhile, here in New York, this May is gearing up to be the most Fred-tastic Bike Month the city has ever seen. Indeed, one scant week after the Five Boro Bike Tour, we will also play host to the "Gran Fondo New York:"

BACKGROUND: Gran Fondo is a challenging, 100+ mile bike race, a concept stemming from Italy. You can think of it as a marathon on bicycles. In NYC, there are long-course bike tours or short-course criterium races. Here is where Gran Fondo New York is different: it is a long-distance challenging ride that appeals to competitive racers and recreational cyclists alike...The Gran Fondo New York course will take the 8,000 cyclists from New York City to New Jersey across the iconic George Washington Bridge with stunning views of Manhattan.

When you take 8,000 "competitive racers and recreational cyclists alike" and send them all up to Bear Mountain on the same day, the result can only be an "epic" Fred orgy of Caligulan proportions, and future generations will surely marvel at the millions of empty CO2 cartridges that will be left behind. (The typical Fred expels an average of six C02 cartridges before managing to successfully inflate his tire.) By the way, in addition to being a qualifying event for the 2011 Amateur World Championship in Belgium, the Gran Fondo New York will also be part of the UCI's new Fred World Cup series, along with Levi's Gran Fondo and any amateur cycling event that incorporates the word "Roubaix" in its name. Here's some more information about the Fred competition from the Gran Fondo New York's FAQ:

Of course, the winner of the UCI Fred World Cup is distinct from the UCI Fred World Champion, who gets to wear this jersey:

Becoming a Fred World Champion is an emotional moment that will fog up the helmet mirror of even the steeliest and most hirsute-legged cyclist.

Speaking of the importance of equipment choice, no less a personage than CommieCanuck has alerted me to these heated road bike grips that will warm the heart and hands of any Fred:

As you can see from the accompanying photo, these are the ideal accessory for the cyclist who is quite comfortable riding in short sleeves, shorts, and dainty tri-style ankle socks in the dead of winter but who still finds his hands getting just a tiny bit chilly. Really, if they wanted their website to look ridiculous they should have just used the time-traveling t-shirt-wearing retro-Fred from the planet Tridork:

He's in a blizzard but his hands are toasty warm, thanks to the hand-thawing power of heated grips.

Even more vexing to me than riding in summer attire while employing heated grips is this "Quillinator" from Soma, which I "Tweeted" about yesterday but still can't get out of my mind:

Now, I love a good cockpit, but this is ridiculous. I can see wanting to take a somewhat kludgy yet inexpensive shortcut to using a threadless stem on an old bike by spending $10 on a threaded-to-threadless adaptor, but under what circumstances would you want to spend $120 to make your threadless fork accept a quill stem? Are people really that attached to their old stems that they're building new bikes around them? And if they are to the extent that they're ready to spend over $100 to do it, is it really that hard to find a threaded fork and headset? What's next, a p-far conversion kit so you can un-safety your safety bicycle? Then again, I guess it's very tempting to take your new frame and fork, hit Craigslist, and grace it with an elegant cockpit like this:

All it needs is a pair of heated grips to warm that disembodied hand. I wonder if it would be possible to equip a bicycle with a threaded-to-threadless adaptor and a Soma Quillinator--now that would be serious "Cockie" material.

But the Quillinator is positively straightforward compared with the philosophy behind Nonetheless clothes:

Nonetheless is a purpose-driven menswear line designed for the urban traveler. You can move from your daily travels and seamlessly live life without compromising mobility, performance, or tailoring. Every piece is environmentally sound with touch points that provide a fluid pathway of considered pieces based on the 'less is more' philosophy.

Just what cycling needs--another Outlier. Clearly the graphic designers of America's gentrified neighborhoods will not tire of spending lots of money on drab clothing anytime soon. What does "purpose-driven" mean with regard to clothing, and what is an "urban traveler?" Is that the same as a douchebag? Besides a straightjacket or a suit of armor, is there really that much clothing that doesn't allow you to "move from your daily travels and seamlessly live life?" Is "touch points" the same as "pants yabbies?" What is a "fluid pathway of considered pieces?" Does that mean all their clothes match because they're similarly bland? Honestly, the only part that makes sense is "less is more," since a single shirt will cost you $188. Then again, I suppose they need all the meaningless turns of phrase, since if you delete them you're left with the following:

Menswear. You can move.

Says it all, really.

Fortunately though the website also contained a testimonial that consisted of much more prosaic language:

“ I am wearing both the Dispatch Rider Pants and the Trench Shirt right now. Loving them immensely in this weather. The shirt sheds this rain like no ones business and the pants dry so fucking fast it’s ridiculous. I hate undeserved compliments but shit. Both are amazing."--Drew

So there you have it, the Dispatch Rider Pants "dry so fucking fast it's ridiculous." This is great news for anybody who's incontinent, so feel free to dispatch urine into your Dispatch Rider Pants with impunity.

Meanwhile, for those who prefer to "portage" a change of clothes to work, I recently received an email from the makers of the "SuitSak," and they wanted me to share this compelling video:

Apparently, the actor borrowed a bicycle from someone who was roughly two feet shorter than him:

His tights, on the other hand, must belong to someone who's at least two feet taller than him, judging by the "epic" crotch saggage:

Or maybe he just likes to have plenty of room for his pendulous "touch points," as well as at least six or seven books.

Finally, he borrowed David Byrne's (who doesn't have a car) giant suit for the closing scene:

Yes, corporate profits will go up, UP, UP!!! if you use the SuitSak.

Between environmentally sound, purpose-driven menswear with touchpoints that provide a fluid pathway of considered pieces, and the SuitSak, it's a wonder anybody manages to simply get on a bike and go to work at all.